LAKELAND — Once the rout was on, the Berkeley Prep volleyball team raised the ante.
The Bucs, making their seventh state tournament appearance in the past eight years Wednesday afternoon at the Lakeland Center, had held Jacksonville Bolles to single-digit points in the first two sets.
Then, a little defeat.
“Towards the end of the third game, we were telling ourselves we should hold them to nine or less,” senior middle hitter Lindsay Young said. “Then they got the 10th point, we were like, ‘No, this is awful! We can’t do that.’ ”
It was pretty much the only unfulfilled wish in Berkeley’s 25-9, 25-9, 25-10 Class 3A state semifinal win over the Bulldogs, setting up an opportunity for the Bucs to win their 13th state title and first since 2003.
The match was easily in hand from the start — the Bucs (28-3) needed just 65 minutes to end the Bulldogs’ season — and ended with most of the Berkeley starters able to get their walkoff applause as second-teamers finished the match. Berkeley made just nine attack errors, compared to 26 from Bolles.
“We were supposed to play a perfect match, that was the talk before the match,” Berkeley Prep coach Randy Dagostino said. “I would say that the match was definitely always in our control.”
Berkeley overwhelmed a Bolles team that was taller — the Bulldogs played three 6-foot-2 hitters — making their opponent’s height advantage a nonfactor.
“We could never get into a system where we could see what works,” Bolles coach Elise Busch said. “You’ve got to make them feel pressure. We didn’t make them feel any pressure.”
Dagostino pointed to his team’s schedule, which was ranked by MaxPreps as the toughest in the state and included 6-foot-plus hitters heading to Stanford, USC and Wisconsin. Senior Chelsea Parker said playing 5A state power Venice in the Sun Dome gave them confidence heading into the Lakeland Center.
“I think our team feels a lot more comfortable this year,” Parker said. “We were more prepared.”
(Photo: The Berkeley Prep volleyball team celebrates its three-set win over Jacksonville Bolles in Wednesday's Class 3A state semifinal at the Lakeland Center/Times photo/Chris Zuppa)